From the Federal Budget
Savings provide a means by which Canadians can invest in the future and improve their standard of living. For individual Canadians and their families, the accumulation of personal savings brings the security and peace of mind that come with the knowledge that funds will be available in the event of an emergency or for individuals to achieve their goals, such as starting a small business, purchasing a new home or a new car, or taking a vacation. In these ways, savings contribute to a higher standard of living for Canadians.
In support of the economic agenda set out in Advantage Canada, and to improve incentives for Canadians to save, the Government proposes to reduce the taxation of savings through the introduction of a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)—a flexible, registered general-purpose account that will allow Canadians to earn tax-free investment income.
How the Tax-Free Savings Account Will Work
- Starting in 2009, Canadian residents age 18 or older will be eligible to contribute up to $5,000 annually to a TFSA, with unused room being carried forward.
- Contributions will not be deductible.
- Capital gains and other investment income earned in a TFSA will not be taxed.
- Withdrawals will be tax-free.
- Neither income earned within a TFSA nor withdrawals from it will affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits.
- Withdrawals will create contribution room for future savings.
- Contributions to a spouse’s or common-law partner’s TFSA will be allowed, and TFSA assets will be transferable to the TFSA of a spouse or common-law partner upon death.
- Qualified investments include all arm’s-length Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) qualified investments.
- The $5,000 annual contribution limit will be indexed to inflation in $500 increments.
The TFSA will provide a flexible savings vehicle for Canadians. Since not everyone is able to save each year, individuals who are unable to contribute $5,000 in a year will be able to carry forward unused contribution room to future years. In addition, in recognition of the fact that most people are likely to have multiple savings objectives at the various stages of their lives—e.g. to purchase a car, home or cottage—the full amount of withdrawals may be re-contributed to a TFSA in the future, to ensure that there is no loss in a person’s total savings room. In recognition of the fact that couples often make their savings decisions and plan for their financial security on a joint basis, individuals may contribute to the TFSA of their spouse or common-law partner, subject to the spouse or partner’s available contribution room.
Canadians will also benefit by being able to use the TFSA to start saving early for a range of needs they may have in the future. Many Canadians may prefer to use a TFSA to save for pre-retirement needs given the absence of tax consequences on withdrawals and the ability to avoid the use of RRSP room for non-retirement savings needs.
The TFSA will also provide seniors with a savings vehicle to meet any ongoing savings needs, something to which they have only limited access once they are over the age of 71 and are required to begin drawing down their retirement savings. Based on current savings patterns, seniors are expected to receive one-half of the total benefits provided by the TFSA.
This is a fantastic new measure for many Canadians. It will benefit low income Canadians the most who may not realize a large benefit from RRSP tax deductions or who have government benefits clawed back because of their income level. It is also my hope that it will encourage investing and saving more than the current lacklustre level.